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Passing Out Mid-Term Grades

We've passed the mid-point of the 2019 season with all but four teams having already began district play. This week the 3A Notebook is ready to hand out mid-term reports to every team. Admittedly, the 3A Notebook isn't too hard of a grader and we will readily encourage every team with a low grade that improvements can be made. We do not, however, grade on a curve. You get what you earned.

District 1
Paducah Tilghman (5-2) - B
The Blue Tornado have started 5-2 behind an impressive running game that averages 291 yards per night on the ground. Passing game has been suspect and has cost them in losses to Mayfield and DeSales. Those losses are likely two that most anyone in Class 3A would have suffered, though, so we aren't being too critical. Tilghman is better than in years past but the Notebook isn't sure that this team can reach the next level.

Union County (4-3) - B-
For several years a trend has been evident at Union County. The Braves beat who they are supposed to beat and lose to who they are supposed to lose to. This season has been very similar, having pitched three shutouts in their four wins, while losing to Madisonville, Murray, and Caldwell County. The win over Crittenden County, however, has shown that perhaps this bunch of Braves might be capable of winning a playoff game for the first time in six years. The offense, averaging 22.1 points per game, will have to be better.

Trigg County (4-3) - C
Trigg opened the season with four straight wins and a dominating defense. Unfortunately, when the schedule picked up, the defense slacked off. Trigg is allowing 53 points per game during their three game losing streak and have failed the be competitive with three solid teams. The Wildcats' reliance on quarterback Cameron Jordon (940 yards passing, 464 yards rushing, 24 total touchdowns) has shown his incredible ability but has had to mask a lack of depth. It will all come down to likely two games with Union County - one at home on October 25 and the second during the first round of the playoffs at the home of the October winner.

Webster County (3-4) - C
Webster County is far from great, although three wins this season is already the most since 2010. What the Trojans have been is competitive, something they haven't been in many years. Road losses at Breckinridge County and Fulton County showed them capable of scoring points, although last week's blowout loss to Union County tampers many hope of Webster moving up the district pecking order. Quarterback Mason Wilson has been a bright spot, passing for 207 yards per game and 15 touchdowns (stats prior to last game).

District 2
Glasgow (6-1) - A
Give the Scotties a bright and shiny A for their success after moving up from Class 2A. The schedule hasn't been great but the defense has, allowing only 11 points per game. Interestingly, the most impressive game for Glasgow might have been in defeat. A 21-20 loss to South Warren showed the Scotties were capable of competing with teams at the highest level. A home game in two weeks with Taylor County should be for all the marbles in District 2.

Taylor County (6-1) - A-
Similar to Glasgow, Taylor County has made themselves quite at home after a change in class. Last year's Class 4A state semifinalists scored impressive wins over Larue County and Campbellsville in back-to-back weeks early, before a 39-7 loss at middling 6A Simon Kenton tempered expectations just a bit. Taylor is wearing teams out on the ground, rushing for a combined 2,085 yards and 30 touchdowns through seven games.

Casey County (2-4) - C
It was always going to be something of a rebuilding year for a Casey County program that has graduated loads of good players during Steve Stonebraker's second stint in Liberty. The Rebels have ugly losses to Campbellsville and Taylor County, which might be expected, but performed admirably in losses to Rockcastle County and Larue County, and picked up a nice win over Russell County. Casey looks like the third best team in District 2 and has a strong chance at finishing the regular season 5-5.

Adair County (2-5) - C-
The halcyon days of 2014-16, when Adair County won 27 games, disappeared quickly in consecutive 1-9 campaigns the last two years. Things are looking up in Columbia under coach Van Isaac, however, as the Indians have already won twice. Their recent victory over Hart County all but assures a return to the post season, as well. A defensive unit allowing 32 points per game will need improvement but the walk back to respectability has already began.

Hart County (3-4) - D
Replacing superstars is difficult for any program as Hart County is finding out this season. Gone is quarterback John Shoulders and running back Daveon Wood, who combined accounted for nearly 3,000 yards total offense and over 20 scores. It has been offense by committee in 2019, with Dustin Butler, Julian Barbour, and Jordan Bradley each rushing for over 75 yards per game but none over 100. The offense, which scored over forty points three times in the first four games has been slowed of late, twice being shutout. A win over Casey County in two weeks is necessary if the Raiders want to make it five straight postseason appearances.

District 3
Bardstown (6-1) - A
Rumors were circulating in the preseason that this Bardstown team could be special and thus far they have not disappointed. A road loss at 1A power Pikeville in the opener is the only blemish on an otherwise spotless resume. Bardstown has won six straight, including name wins over Danville, Washington County, and Larue County. The defense has allowed only 19 points combined in the last six outings. October 25 at Elizabethtown looks like the regular season district championship game and this bunch of Tigers look capable of winning it.

Elizabethtown (4-2) - B+
It is hard to be critical of a team that has lost twice when both defeats came to 6A rivals who are presently undefeated. Elizabethtown played as close with North Hardin and Central Hardin as just about anyone, only to come up short. The problem for the Panthers is their victories have been of the ho-hum variety. That will change over the last month of the season against Meade County, Larue County, Bardstown, and Lloyd Memorial. Oddly, leading rusher Joseph Becherer has ran for 663 yards and quarterback Clay Games has passed for 663 yards.

Larue County (4-3) - B
Incomplete might be the better grade for Josh Jaggers' bunch, as Larue has dealt with numerous injuries in the backfield to this point. Running back Jeremiah Belton has picked up where he left off last season, rushing for 560 yards and seven touchdowns. The schedule has been tough but Larue holds a nice victory over 1A power Campbellsville. Larue may well have to play their first round playoff game on the road. If so, this program has shown as recently as last season that they are capable of getting postseason road victories. Keep an eye on the Hawks.

Thomas Nelson (0-7) - D
Times are tough for the two Nelson County schools who are a combined 0-14. Thomas Nelson has two close losses and has faced a brutal slate to date. Offense has been a struggle as the Generals are averaging only 203 total yards per game. A home game with Nelson County in three weeks looks like the best chance at a victory.

Nelson County (0-7) - F
Perhaps no program in Class 3A is struggling like Nelson County. We could wax poetic about the 1996 state championship team but there have been good days at Nelson more recently, with the Cardinals winning six games in 2010 and 2012, and another eight games in 2013. Now the Cardinals are mired in a slump that has seen them lose 37 of their last 38 games. A win over Thomas Nelson could help salvage a very tough season but the rebuilding process will be long at Nelson County.

District 4
Mercer County (6-1) - A
One of the toughest district assignments in the new alignment was Mercer County in District 4. Preseason talk of dominance by DeSales and CAL has been swept aside as the Titans have roared to a 6-1 start. David Buchanan's team only loss was to Boyle County, but good wins over West Carter, Anderson County, and CAL take away some of that sting. Mercer hasn't been easy to judge as some nights sees their offense pile up points and other nights the defense dominates. It will take both if they are to beat DeSales in three weeks.

DeSales (4-2) - A-
Maybe the 3A Notebook is being too tough on DeSales, tossing a minus on the end of their grade. Losses to St. Xavier and Lexington Catholic are nothing to sneeze at. However, wins over Butler and Cooper are somewhat blah (neither team is as good as was expected) and the win at Paducah Tilghman seemed like more of a referendum on the Blue Tornado. This team is still the favorite in Class 3A but roadies at CAL and Mercer give us pause for the moment.

Christian Academy of Louisville (4-3) - C
So far, so disappointing. An opening night shutout of 5A South Oldham followed by a 36-0 road win at Christian County ended up meaning very little as the Centurions lost three straight and gave up a boatload of points in the process. It's way too early to write off CAL, especially with a home game against DeSales coming this Friday, but it appears coach Stefan LeFors knew when it was time to leave.

Western Hills (2-4) - C-
Taking away Mr. Football will typically hurt a football team and Western Hills is no different. Wandale Robinson's big play ability is gone and the Wolverines offense hasn't been able to replace that spark. Wins over Paris and Frankfort showed the cupboard isn't bare but the gap between Hills and the top three in the district is pretty wide.

Henry County (1-6) - D
After three consecutive winning seasons in the mid-2010s, Henry County has hit a dry patch. The Wildcats won their season opener before losing six straight. Offensive numbers have tapered off weekly and defense points allowed have been on the increase. Henry will need a win at Western Hills this week to entertain any hopes of making the playoffs.

District 5
Bell County (6-0) - A-
"An A? But who have they played?"

The common refrain around 3A football is undefeated Bell County and their lack of quality competition. While true, that negates the impressive play of quarterback London Stephney (over 1,000 total yards) and running back Brandon Baker (just shy of 1,000 yards rushing), as well as a defense that has been dominant in every game but one. Bell should be favored in each of their last four games and with an RPI that continues to increase, could host a number of playoff games on Log Mountain.

Rockcastle County (3-3) - B
Expectations were all across the board in the preseason at Rockcastle County and the results have been similar. Wins over Casey, Adair, and Estill have been balanced by blowout losses to ranked foes Somerset, Wayne County, and Bell. Quarterback Noah Parkey has rushed for 477 yards and passed for 287 on the season, leading the team in both categories. Rockcastle already holds an important win over Estill and can clinch the second seed with a win at Garrard County in three weeks.

Garrard County (4-2) - B-
Mixed bag is probably the best way to describe Garrard County to this point. Wins over Marion County and Western Hills were impressive, but wins over Jackson County and McCreary Central really weren't. An opening night loss to Middlesboro looks better each week, while a blowout loss at Mercer probably best shows where the Golden Lions are in the 3A pecking order. Upcoming games with Estill County and Rockcastle County should ultimately put the final grade on the report card.

Estill County (3-3) - B-
New coach Jordan Marcum inherited a strong program coming off back-to-back bad seasons. Four of the Engineers six games have been close, with Estill pulling out two wins. The loss, an 18-13 defeat to Rockcastle County, may hurt the most. Long a run-first operation under former coach Mike Jones, this year's version is no different, rushing for 1,137 yards and passing for only 362. It looks like a three-horse race between Estill, Garrard, and Rockcastle for the second seed. If Estill can't beat Garrard in two weeks, it will mean a first round road trip to Bell County.

Jackson County (2-4) - C-
While the 3A Notebook doesn't grade on a curve, we are pleased to see improvement from the Jackson County Generals. A program that hasn't had a winning season since 2013 and hasn't won more than two games in a season since, has shown signs of progress so far. Shutout wins over Jenkins and Bracken County were expected and a close loss to Lynn Camp and a nice first half showing at Garrard County show that improvement is being made in McKee. Quarterback Nick Baldwin has been a revelation, passing for 10 touchdowns already.

McCreary Central (0-6) - D
Hard luck has found McCreary Central, winless through six games but close in half of their games. Early season nail biter losses to Pineville and Jellico (TN) was followed by a first half at Garrard County in which the defense was terrific but the offense couldn't crack the case. Late season road games at Jackson County and Lynn Camp provide the best opportunities for the Raiders to get over the hump.

District 6
Fleming County (4-2) - B+
A down campaign in 2018 broke a streak of four straight winning seasons but the Panthers appear to be back to their winning ways in 2019. Quarterback Jonathan Maher has thrown for 1,150 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed for 533 yards and another six scores. Losses to Greenup County and Russell probably prove Fleming isn't ready to move into the top tier just yet, but a win this week at Mason County could mean a number one seed and two home playoff games.

Mason County (3-3) - B
This is not the best team in Mason County history but it is a marked improvement from last year's 2-8 campaign that resulted in missing the playoffs. All three Royals wins have been on the road, including tricky spots Clay County and Grant County. Mason returns home this week after five weeks away for a huge district showdown with Fleming County.

Pendleton County (4-2) - B
One of the best stories in both Class 3A and Kentucky football has been Pendleton County. Not since 2009 have the Wildcats posted a winning record, but they have four wins in six games to start the season. A road win at Powell County this week would clinch a playoff berth and with winnable games coming up, Pendleton could tie the school record of seven wins in a season.

Powell County (1-6) - D
Maybe it is just a pattern. Eight wins in 2011 were followed by two in 2012; seven in 2013 led to three in 2014; eight in 2015, four in 2016; but the margins between good and "bad" years kept getting small and Powell County, winners of 29 games over the last four years seemed poised to become the program to beat in District 6. It just hasn't happened. Five straight losses to open the season was remedied with a win over Lewis County before the Pirates fell hard to Fleming County. Offense has been the problem as the Pirates are only scoring 16.6 points per game. A playoff berth is likely but a playoff win for the third consecutive year seems only just a dream.

Lewis County (0-7) - D-
One of the more challenging jobs in northeastern Kentucky, Lewis County has been on a downswing in recent years and has now lost seven straight in 2019. Losses to Pendleton and Powell likely mean no postseason for a Lions club being outscored 298-56. Moses Jackson has four rushing touchdowns on the season to lead Lewis in scoring.

District 7
Ashland (5-1) - A
The best team in perhaps the best district in Class 3A, Ashland is a controversial one-point overtime loss to Wheelersburg (OH) away from being undefeated. Blake Hester has been the workhorse, rushing for 746 yards and ten touchdowns. Keontae Pittman has been no slouch himself, rushing for another 474 yards and seven scores. A tough schedule should pay dividends going forward but the back half of the slate is tough with three road games in their last four.

Russell (5-1) - A
A few miles up the road from Putnam Stadium is the Russell Red Devils who might argue they are the best team in the district. Aside from the seemingly annual loss to Ironton (OH), Russell has dominated their other five opponents, winning by an average margin of 39. Blowouts of Raceland and Fleming County were impressive. Nathan Conley leads the team in rushing with 642 yards but eight different Devils have scored rushing touchdowns. October 18 at home against Ashland looks like a monster matchup.

East Carter (5-1) - A-
One slow start is the difference in an A+ and an A- for East Carter. Long an also ran in Kentucky football, East Carter has marched progressively over the five years, improving from 1 to 2 to 4 to 5 wins. Now the Raiders are 5-1 with the only mark a 27-26 loss to Fleming County in which they trailed by three scores early. Whether it is real or fake will be determined over the three weeks in games against Ashland, Greenup County, and Russell.

Greenup County (3-3) - B
Greenup County boasts a future Marshall quarterback in Eli Sammons, who has been just what you would expect (1,282 yards/14 touchdowns/4 interceptions), but the talent level is down slightly from past years. Still the Musketeers have put up some victories and their losses have all been to quality teams. This club could be a sleeper in District 7.

District 8
Belfry (4-2) - A-
So, you are 4-2, have two losses against highly ranked teams from Kentucky and Ohio, haven't played a single game with the entire roster, and still get an A-? For Belfry, yes, but it is a sign of the belief that they can be so much better. The Pirates have an impressive win over Lexington Christian and close losses to Archbishop Alter and Pikeville but have entered into district play as something of an unknown. Quarterback Brett Coleman has played in only half of the games, as has running back Isaac Dixon. For a team without much depth, that hurts. However, if an easy district slate allows for players to heal and rest, Belfry could kick start yet another deep playoff run.

Pike County Central (5-1) - B+
Who is the best team you've not heard of this year? Give Pike County Central a look. The Hawks are 5-1 and look to be on their way to a winning record for the first time since 2013. They can score in bunches, averaging 40.5 points per game. Is it good enough to give Belfry a run? Who knows? They're more focused on beating Lawrence County this week and securing a home playoff game.

Lawrence County (3-3) - B-
Much like Wandale Robinson and Western Hills, when a superstar graduates finding a replacement is difficult. Such is the problem facing Lawrence County. Do-it-all quarterback Noah West left and was replaced by Baden Gillespie, who is doing a very nice impression. Gillespie has rushed for 820 yards and 16 touchdowns and also passed for 161 yards and two scores. This week's road trip to Pike County Central looks like a first round preview for the Bulldogs.

Magoffin County (2-4) - C+
Back-to-back winning seasons in 2013 and 2014 have been followed by four consecutive years with three wins or fewer for Magoffin County. It does look like the Hornets are back on the uptick, though, having posted two wins so far and with another couple potentially awaiting this season. Running back Jaylon McDuffus has toted the rock for 761 yards and five scores for a Hornets squad that likely has to beat Floyd Central at home this Friday to make the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Floyd Central (2-5) - C
A challenging schedule has been the undoing of Shawn Hager's team in 2019. Losses to Clay County, North Laurel, Hazard, Pike County Central, and Belfry have produced a total of 54 points, while wins over minnows Knott County Central and Betsy Layne have seen the Jaguars score 83 points. Floyd Central finishes the year with three straight road games but the most important is this week in a winner goes to the playoff meeting at Magoffin County.